Tragic Death of Comedy Great!
was very sad to discover recently that Geoffrey Perkins had died – although I was unaware of such a huge contribution he had made to British Comedy.
It makes me proud that he phoned and wrote me asking for more scripts after finding my first submissions at the bottom of a pile when he was script editor at Spitting Image. Unfortnately a big breaking news story stopped my first comedy scripts being aired as the few minutes allotted to freelancers was abandoned to cover scripts about the breaking news.
I remember later he phoned me up at work, a leather retail and wholesale showroom behind Simpsons of Piccadilly in Jermyn Street, after having sent me a letter asking if I did any songwriting. I told him I wasn’t musical but I thought it might be worth using a traditional song and change the words as I used to do as a boy with my friends. As it was the middle of Thatcher’s Britain and rising Unemployment I suggested something along the lines of that old Prom favourite “The Land of Dole and Worry….!” Not long after that little piece of brainstorming Spitting Image produced “Santa Claus is on the dole….”
A short while afterwards my mother took ill with Non-hodgkins lymphona and I did not feel like writing comedy. It was only when my late sister took seriously ill at the end of 2008 that an urge for writing comedy suddenly returned and I decided to try and get in touch with Geoffrey whom I knew had been Head of Comedy/Light Entertainment at the BBC.
I tracked him down to Tiger Aspect through the world wide web and tried to guess his email as I no longer had his direct fax and phone numbers. This attempt though was put on hold by another family members illness and death recently when once again quite bizarrely I kept getting comical inspirations in mundane and tragic circumstances.
A lot of comedy is borne out of tragedy as is exampled by plays from classical times through the rennaisance, restoration and throughout the post world war 11 British Theatre. This blend of tragedy and comedy has been a favourite of such writing greats as Aristotle, Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn and Harold Pinter.
I was randomly watching TV when I came across a show being presented by Angus Dayton, whom I always enjoyed as presenter of Have I Got News for YOU and felt sorry for the way he was treated. Watching it in disbelief as I suddenly realised this was a memorial tribute to one of the greats in British Comedy.
Geoffrey’s death is obviously a tragedy, as was the way in which he died but I aslo find it tragic that I never had the privilege to meet him. Neverthelss his work will keep us laughing for years to come and maybe Geoffrey is trying to get me to do something with these comic inspirations that keep nudging me in the most mundane and sometimes tragic circumstances.